How to Plan for a Trade Show

Thinking of going to a trade show? It’s absolutely worth it.

The Benefits:

Face-to-Face Contact: You’re always at your most convincing when you’re pitching to a person right in front of you. If you’re a bit introverted, well, you might as well bring your best closer along.


Lasting Impressions: Done right, a great booth is impactful in a way a website or targeted email could never be. If your setup is interesting, attendees will be thinking about you for months afterward.


Equal Opportunity: Trade shows are a unique environment where the minnows can swim alongside the sharks, and get a fair shot at beating them too. Small and medium-sized businesses thrive at shows thanks to equal visibility with the giants.



The Tips:

Know Your Audience: Targeting is so important here. If you know what kind of attendees there’ll be, or even have a way of obtaining their contact info in advance, you can establish an important foothold with a pre-show marketing campaign, and get into the heads of potential clients before you even set up your booth. Equally, researching your target market could give important insights into how your booth should look, or what kinds of activities or games you might want to use to draw in passersby.


Know Your Enemy Too: If the trade show you’re going to is popular, chances are you’ll have some other people from your industry involved, and industry-specific trade shows mean you’ll be up against practically everybody. Any intel you can get on the competition will be helpful to find out how you can differentiate yourself, while shoring up your weaknesses where possible.


Secure a Budget: There’s plenty of costs involved in trade shows, and making sure to dedicate enough of a budget means you won’t feel unequipped when you finally see how your setup looks. You might know about registration costs, but keep in mind you’ll also have to pay for electricity and wi-fi, on top of any costs for the actual booth materials, like renting furniture, audiovisual devices, and lighting, printing out handouts and banners, and getting any gifts or giveaways you might need. Then you’ve obviously got to pay your employees’ way there, and get them a place to stay. Don’t be afraid to negotiate with the organizers! They’re a lot more open to it than you might think. Be candid with them about what you can afford, and try and get them to disclose any fees that might otherwise end up as unpleasant, last-minute surprises.


Get Informed: When you get your contract from the organizers, review EVERY DETAIL. Pay particular attention to the cancellation policy, attendee list distribution, and exactly what comes with your booth. If something doesn’t seem right or reasonable, keep on negotiating until it all makes proper sense. Try and establish a single point of contact for all your trade show concerns. Having someone there who’ll remember you and your preferences will save you a ton of reexplaining.


Get Prepared: The first thing to figure out is who’s going. Once you know that, block off your dates, and book your lodging and travel arrangements as quickly as possible. The trade show organizers will often dedicate rooms in a hotel, but they’ll get booked up very quickly. Home-sharing services might be a good fit, provided they are safe and close to the venue. Select your booth early, because good spots will go before you know it. The best spots are near entrances or big attractions. You’ll want open sight lines on your booth, so avoid pillars. Corner booths are great, affording you extra space and visibility. Oh, and order everything you need for your booth. Do everything well in advance, and you’ll be sure to have a successful show.



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